As the people looks to the West, their leader looks to the East
WHEN IT ALL STARTED
The 21st of November 2013 was a turning point in Ukrainian politics.
It all started that day, when Ukrainian pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement (which would have led to free trade with the EU members). The symbolic meaning of this missed agreement was that Ukraine’s President chose to enforce his economic relations with Russia, sacrificing at the same time the approach to the European Union.
THE FIRST ONES TO DARE
The decision unleashed an immediate wave of discontent and hundreds of protesters erupted for a pacific manifestation in the centre of the capital, Kiev. Among protesters who filled Independence Square (“Maidan” in Ukrainian) that night with European and Ukrainian flags were included not only pro-Europe activists and students, but also thousands of people who already accused President Yanukovyc of corruption (after he committed electoral fraud in 2004 elections and caused the so called “Orange Revolution”), abuse of power and violation of human rights.
FLAMES OF REBELLION
In the following days a huge amount of people, especially organisations of students from high schools and universities, joined the manifestation. It became clear that the opposition to the President was serious when frictions with the police became violent at the end of November. Special police units “Berkut” attacked pacific protesters in Maidan and suppressed mobile phone communications, creating chaos. The attempt of the government to oppress the crowd was in fact a failure.
Trying to extinguish the fire of rebellion, the president threw a can of gasoline on a living flame. In other words, those who were at that time indifferent, joined the uprising.
THE BIG FIRE
Between rallies and police crashes the situation underwent an escalation of violence. An unarmed population of almost 800.000 units faced the police in two sides: Berkut Special Units, attacking from the front with cruel war tactics, and “Titushky”, mercenaries hired by the administration of Yanukovych, infiltrated among the people to weaken and hit them from behind, performing illegal acts.
The 22nd of February 2014, after 3 months of revolt, around 1.000 victims and hundreds of abducted people, President Yanukovych, together with the opposition party, signed the Agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine, whose aim was to stop the mass bloodshed in Kiev and to end the political crisis. He was forced to flee to Russia, the only country who gave him political asylum.
ACTUAL CRISIS AND EU MEMBERSHIP
Ukraine is still facing a period of instability not only because of the split in the pro-Russian and pro-European population (i.e. annexation of Crimea to Russia), but also due to the considerable level of corruption that surrounds public administrations.
After his election in May 2014, the actual President Petro Poroshenko signed the economic Association Agreement together with the European Union. It was the “first but most decisive step" towards EU membership, as he stated after the signature. His goal is to obtain the membership within 2020.
However, some EU members, especially the Netherlands, maintain an opposite position.
“We believe that Ukraine should have good relationships with both with Europe and Russia, […] it cannot be the case if [Ukraine] is in the European Union.” said the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, during his presidency of the Council of EU in 2016. Despite the developments in Crimea, he believes that Ukraine should develop stable relations with Russia.
IMPACT ON SOCIETY
Euromaidan's experience has led to a decrease in anti-Semitic force and in general to an acceptance of the most widespread diversity in the country.
The 21st of November is now called the “Dignity and Freedom Day” in Ukraine (thanks to actual President Poroshenko), to celebrate that day, the prelude to a small victory of popular power over institutional power.
Euromaidan was a trend inversion in power management. What happened in Ukraine lighted up a glimmer of hope for the evolution of civil society.